Kevin Gao
Kevin Gao
China 2017
My parents always said we were from the land of the Dragons and we will never be far from it. Time has changed and now this is my journey back to China, the Land of Dragons, where everything started for my family. Read More About Kevin →

Cerecare Week 2

Right now, it has been two weeks since I started working here at Cerecare, and I have learned a lot about the children, cerebral palsy, and a lot about myself and the world around me.

This is just like school again! I wake up at around 6am to prepare for work and I leave work at around 5:30 pm. But the only difference is I enjoy every minute of my work here.

First, what Cerecare does is amazing. Cerebral Palsy is incurable, but what this facility does to help the children grow is tremendous. Jiang Jiang, a child with a severe case of spastic cerebral palsy came in to Cerecare when he was 5. At that time, he could not control his speech, his motor movements, walking, and most things we take for granted. Now he is 12 years old. Though he takes more time than others, he is able to walk, talk, use chopsticks, and express himself independently.

Overtime I have bonded with the staff and children here. All of the children here are all very sweet, and all of the staff are qualified for the work they are doing.  One of the children, Zhangyi, has the most severe case of cerebral palsy in the history of Cerecare. Zhangyi is a 15 year old boy that has been with us since he was 2. He cannot talk, walk, and is in a comatose like state. However, he is aware of everything is is around him, he is just physically unable to express himself. He is an orphan. His parents abandoned him and was soon discovered by Cerecare. Every 2 months and every major holiday, all of the children here return home for the holidays except for Zhangyi. He has never gone home for Chinese New Year. One of staff, Mrs. Ma, is the one that takes care of him. She takes him home to New Years, every vacation and holiday, and treats him like her own son. She does it not for any other reason except for her love and care of Zhangyi. Since his birth, she has been the only mother he knows.

Every staff member here is all very compassionate, patient, and are some of the best people in this world. This side of China is something the media does not display. This experience I think proves a lot about faith in humanity.

As I continue my next few weeks, I am sure more stories will arise. TBC!

The city of no tin but plenty of sugar

Rumor has it that there is a city one hour away from Shanghai that is filled with beauty, nature, a deep history, and a very unique cuisine. So I decided to take a weekend getaway to Wuxi, the city between Shanghai and Nanjing.

“Wu” means without. “Xi” means tin. This city used to be a huge source of tin that would be used for the development of bronze in ancient China. Soon, the tin mine ran dry, so the city became known as Wuxi. The city without tin.

In this city, it is very different than the bustling metropolis of Shanghai. It is like taking a step back. Wuxi and its culture is more relaxed than that of Shanghai. The first and most important destination is Taihu lake. This is a very large lake that served as a very inspirational nature resort for many Chinese thinkers, scholars, and philosophers. Right now it is one of China’s protected parks.

Wuxi also has a very unique cuisine. The geographical location of the city makes it a perfect place for growing sugar. In fact, everything is so sweet! From the beverages, desserts, and even the Xiao Long Baos! (Little dumplings). It was a unique experience, and its amazing to see how much of a difference in culture just one hour can make.

As I arrived back in Shanghai, it felt like coming back home. I loved Wuxi but I missed Shanghai, my new home.


The Sunset in Wuxi, a mix between classical and modern China


Stinky tofu is like Cheese. Tofu that is fermented and has a very foul odor and taste a bit like cheese. It is very famous and is a delicacy. There is a first time for everything, but nevertheless, I will never try this again.


Wuxi also has some very important Buddhists statues and a deep history of Buddhism.


Like a lot of places in China, Wuxi does not sleep. This is the streets of Nanchang road, that has the most famous night markets in Wuxi. Nigh markets are local food stands that serve delicious local food.


Here is another view of the Taihu lake.

An infinite potential to achieve your dreams

Madame Lu is born and raised in Shanghai in a tumultuous time. A time of political turmoil, Japanese occupation, and a Chinese civil war. Madame Lu has endured many hardships in her life, but the one thing she will always have to endure is cerebral palsy (CP).

CP is a condition that affects the muscle coordination and control that limits the functional abilities of the individuals. This causes spasms in the muscles and nerves of the individual and they can not do the simple things that we take for granted, such as using chopsticks, writing, and walking. A lot of the times, there will also be mental and speech disabilities. The worst part is, CP is not curable.

Madame Lu might have been born with CP, but the disability did not prevent her from dreaming and achieving great things.  Madame Lu poured out all of her time, resources, and heart into creating Cerecare Wellness Center in Shanghai. This is a facility that offers an alternative therapy approach to assist children with CP to adjust to normal life. By providing them care and education on their developmental level, and to provide teaching in activities of daily living such as eating with utensils and walking. Cerecare also adds an additional therapy of traditional acupressure, which Madame Lu claims to have helped her the most during her therapies. These interventions are provided by a team of kind hearted individuals who are devoted to help the children adjust their lives to society.

Projects Abroad assigned me to volunteer here with Cerecare for my two months here, and it has already been a week since I started working here. The first day was initiated with intensity. I was introduced to the history, facility, and staff of Cerecare and was greeted with a warm welcome. Then I met the children of Cerecare, currently with 15. The children all had either a form of CP or Autism and the age range varied from 5 years old to 18. Each of these children their own different disabilities and unique strengths and weaknesses. The children all were very welcoming and eager to earn more about their new friend, an American 哥哥 (older brother) who for some reason looks Chinese. After spending a week with these children teaching English, performing stretching and physical exercise, doing math, helping them eat, and just spending genuine time with them I had learned a lot about each of these children. Each are all so different in their own way, DuoDuo wants to be a singer, XingXing wants to be an actress, JiangJiang wants to help out with their parent’s shop. Each were all eager to share with me their hobbies and dreams. While they were all different, I knew they all had in common something like Madame Lu, an infinite potential for growth and means to achieve great things. These children are all so bright and has a great future ahead of them.

As for now, it begins my two month adventure at Cerecare and the amazing people I have met along the day.  I wake up every morning at 7:00 to catch my bus to work which starts at 8:30 and ends at 5:00 pm. Afterwards I usually spend my day exploring the amazing city of Shanghai. Needless to say, these two months will be some of the bests.


吃饭了吗?Have you eaten yet?


I have officially been in Shanghai for 24 hours now and it has been a blast thanks to Projects Abroad, which has been a great help as I land in China. I am deprived of sleep but full of good food. Food is essential to Chinese culture, and Shanghai is the hub of good food, from Michellin stars to local food stands. In Chinese, a common phrase to greet friends is not “hello” but it is 吃饭了吗? “Have you eaten yet?” While I recover from my jet-lag and prepare for my work placement tomorrow, I indulge myself in the local delicacies. The first thing that you notice is the price. The food here is of course heavenly delicious but also super cheap!

My first meal is a vegetable and rice dish with the local specialty, a soup filled dumpling called Xiao long bao. (Soup dumplings, dragon dumplings, basket dumplings) It was a relatively large portion and very VERY good! And the whole meal was only 19 RMB!!! ($2.75).


Breakfast time is my favorite time to explore the city because people from all worlds come to dine in local spots. Right under my flat is a busy center full of people lining up for a nice breakfast. I lined up for a small food stand with the longest que, and it was for sure worth it. Again, super affordable and delicious. One Shao mai (rice filled wontons) and four fried dumplings (Sheng Jian Bao) only costs 6.5 RMB which is not even $1!


This heartwarming meal is the perfect thing for a “welcome to Shanghai” feel and a great cure for jet-lag and home sickness. As I grow used to the metropolis of China, I become indulgent in the food that is served. I think this connects me more to the Chinese culture and the Shanghainese community, because as the locals say, “Food is divine.”

The night before takeoff

It is finally happening!! Finals are finally over and I am now a senior, but most importantly, I am going to Shanghai tomorrow! After being worn out by the last few weeks of school, this sense of adventure had revitalized me and my ambitions to accomplish what I can abroad and experience a new chapter in my life. To be honest, it feels very surreal.

Shanghai has been dubbed the pearl of China for its history and cultural force. I have been to Shanghai five years ago but that was a very different time, and now I have a very different motive instead of being a tourist.


This is me in 2012 at the Shanghai Oriental Pearl, one of (if not the) tallest skyscraper in East Asia.

China is a place where one blink of an eye can change an entire landscape. Now as I return to Shanghai, I wonder how much of it will have changed and how much it has grown. I now return to Shanghai as a more grown person ready to immerse myself in the community and culture. With exams off of my mind, the only thing is about the anticipated trip, that is finally here.

See you all in Shanghai soon!

Shanghai 2017: Week (-3)

My journey thus far:

2014: I entered my freshman year at Belmont University with immediate intentions to study abroad. I was set on staying a semester in Seville for my Sophomore year, but due to several circumstances, it never happened. I also realized, my ability to study abroad diminished.

2015: I learned about the Lumos Travel Award and knew if I wished to reignite my passion to go abroad, this was my only second chance. So I decided to do everything to prepare myself for the Lumos award.

2016: One year later, I decided to put in my all for this award, and to my astonishment, I got the award! All of the time and effort spent on my preparation paid off! In 2017, I will be heading to my motherland, China.

2017: Wow, it is already April 15th. In 3 weeks, I will be en route to Shanghai . Everything is ready. Every requirement with Lumos and Projects Abroad (the company I am going to Shanghai with) is ready; and most of all, I am ready. I received my living residence, which is near the city center, and the location of my project. This project will be very crucial to me. It will be a test of my character, my love of helping others, and my future profession (nursing). I constantly go over my notes for my course in Pediatrics Nursing to try to find every skill and assessment I can use at the disabled children center I will be working at. In a way, I have been waiting for this moment since the beginning of my college career; to embark on a journey to discover the vast land of China through discovering my own identity while helping the disabled children discover more and more everyday. That is my goal this summer, and I am ready. The only thing in my way is 3 weeks of patience. Maybe this wait is also a test, but I just cannot wait to finish my exams and jump on that plane!